There’s an achievement in F1 2016 that, if you’re a fan, will probably make you laugh. It’s called “Not In The Corners” where you have to “politely” tell your race engineer to not speak anymore. In actuality, if you’re wearing a mic or can use the drop down menus well then you just shout “SHUT UP JEFF” and the poor engineer gets the hint.
That’s the one thing that you can take away from playing F1 2016. The fun has returned. Not just in the gameplay because F1 2015, despite being very shy on content did get the racing part of the game right. This isn’t perfect by any means but you do forgive it its transgressions because of everything else around it.
Firstly, and most notably, the career mode has returned. It’s been a good two games since we really has a full and fleshed out mode. But nice cutscenes in the teams motorhomes and public areas and playable things around that. Using your laptop you can select your session, see your stats (including the rivalry information) and choose how to progress the R&D in the car. All the time your surrounded by your team mate and the team principal on the sofas near you. Chatting. Plotting… Probably not plotting but it looks like it.
There are two people you interact with. Your agent, who brings news of team offers, rivalries or bad news, and your engineer who brings the R&D progress to your small desk. It’s not the huge press style bonanza of previous F1 games but it does harken back to that era of Codemasters, around DiRT 3, where the game was good and the world around the racing was just as fun and entertaining.
The game has changed slightly in being a bit easier to get to grips with and a definite improvement in the career mode, mostly in the practice sessions. There are a few mini-games in these sessions that help you learn the track but also count towards research points for your car improvements. One of them makes you go through gates which mimic the racing line, another makes you manage your tyres (which is a great way of weeding out aggressive breaking). The way that F1’s little technical details have been used to make entertaining and educational tutorials and game modes is very clever.
When you’re on the track there are a few issues. 2015 has nailed the graphical fidelity and the overall look of the game. The EGO engine does look lovely despite its age and the focus isn’t on DriveClub style god rays and beauty but more accurate representation and driving quality. However the AI still isn’t perfect. You will end up at times with a bit of a convoy and on rails drivers until you get close. Then you can go racing but it is hard to overtake and actually race. That’s more to do with the drivers being very bullish and almost GP2 like at times. Which, you could argue, is quite accurate in places.
The game reinstates a full safety car along with the virtual safety car which will force you to stick to a certain time. There’s now a formation lap if you choose which is essential for warming tyres and brakes. Online works well although it is difficult on console at least to get games where you can actually race and not have repeated instances of idiots driving off the first corner. There is also an online co-op championship though if you have a friend that you can enjoy the game with.
The biggest change on the track is the driving and the representation of the throttle. The PS4 version we tested was a little tricky to drive because of the R2 trigger. The game represents an F1 car very well, including the vast amounts of torque and wheelspin generated when you put your foot down. It’s a job to control the car, especially moving at speed out of corners or on long sweeping turns. It’s something that might be better with the Xbox pad’s trigger than the PlayStation and sadly, there’s no way to alter the pressure on the trigger. When you switch to a wheel (we tested with our Logitech G29) it does become much easier to control, but it doesn’t feel like (in the case of other driving games) that this is specifically designed for a wheel, more that it’s a bit of an annoying side effect that highlights the incredibly rare problems pads have.
F1 2016 does enough on the track and the return to fun in the career mode is very welcome. It’s still not near the heights of its last generation predecessor (in my opinion F1 2013 is the best) and it still has a identity crisis of being slightly arcade like but with all the simulation turned up to full. It’s getting there though and F1 2016 does the best job of replicating the sport and driving of Formula One.